By Christopher Brooks
While most Rider students were already headed home on Nov. 26 for Thanksgiving break, former Bronc Jazmine Fenlator, ’07, the current bobsled pilot for Team USA, had to be reminded about the national holiday.
“Many times, to be honest, I don’t know what day it is,” she said. “I go off of what type of workouts I have and how many training days before a race. I almost forgot it was Thanksgiving if it wasn’t for social media and messages being sent to me.”
Since joining the national team, Fenlator has had the opportunity to travel around the globe to train and compete. Her adventures have led her to Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and almost every corner of the United States and Canada in hopes of qualifying for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
In preparation for the Olympics, Fenlator and Team USA have been competing in various events to help bolster the team’s qualifying chances. Over the last year, the team has raced in the World Cup and World Championship. The World Cup races were held all over the world, including Germany, France, Austria, Russia, the United States and Canada, while the World Championship took place in Switzerland. Fenlator finished the 2012-13 World Cup season ranked eighth in the world, winning a silver and a bronze medal.
These recent successes have brought Fenlator one step closer to qualifying as an Olympian, but she is not quite there yet. On Nov. 30, the 2013-14 World Cup season began in Canada, where Fenlator and partner Lolo Jones placed 15th.
Each race, Fenlator compiles points toward a world ranking. To qualify for the 2014 Olympics, she must be ranked in the top 40 pilots. Fenlator currently sits 19th.
“I will qualify for the games with eight international World Cup races,” Fenlator said. “A selection committee for USA bobsled will decide my specific brakeman.”
Fenlator, a former track and field athlete at Rider, has spent the latest chapter of her life hoping to fulfill her lifelong dream — becoming an Olympian. Though being a bobsled pilot was not her original intent, Fenlator has found much success in the sleigh after recommendations from former track and field Head Coach Robert Pasquariello, who secretly submitted Fenlator’s athletic résumé to the United States Olympic Committee. Fenlator attended the tryout and the rest is history.
“Since I can remember I have always wanted to be an Olympic athlete,” Fenlator said. “I would be lying if I said I thought it would be in bobsled, but I never have closed a door to opportunities on the horizon. To this day I am so grateful for the push that Coach Pasquariello gave me and the seed he planted.”
Pasquariello knows Fenlator is up for the challenge.
“Nobody’s going to outwork Jazmine,” Pasquariello said. “Nobody is going to want it more.”
However, nobody said the lifestyle of an Olympic hopeful would be easy. If Fenlator is not whizzing down the track at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour, she might be in the weight room or a team meeting.
Fenlator’s social life has all but disappeared thanks to her overloaded training regime. She trains six days a week with one free day, usually reserved for travel. The typical week includes up to 70 hours of training.
“Free time, what’s free time?” she joked. “My days are jam-packed. If I am not training, I am going through extensive recovery routine with physiotherapy or exercises to prevent injury. If I am not in a team meeting, I am doing video review and going over my driving lines for the track.”
With the Winter Olympics only two short months away, Fenlator will have a chance to bolster her ranking and secure a spot in Russia with a few remaining races. Though the journey to the Olympics has been a long and difficult road for Fenlator, she is ready for the final lap.
“All my focus and energy right now are to make sure that when I stand on that starting block in Russia I know that I gave my absolute all for the privilege to be there and wear USA on my uniform,” she said. “At the Olympic Games its go time and I’m going to unleash the beast within.”